The Government of Canada has announced plans to limit the inclusion of flavorings in vape products to just tobacco and mint/menthol. This is in addition to a nicotine cap due to come into force on July 8, 2021.
The Canada Gazette, an official publication of the Canadian government, gives details of several regulations and what it hopes to achieve. There are several interesting highlights, some of which are highly contradictory.
Some provinces in Canada have already banned flavored vapes. One has to question whether it will produce the desired effect, or push youth toward a much more dangerous alternative.
What is the TVPA and What Does the Amendment Say?
The Amendment to the Tobacco and vaping products act states at its outset that it has been specified to deal with the “rapid increase in youth vaping”. As a reason for the Amendment it cites that:
“Vaping product-related harms… can result in a dependence on nicotine and an increased risk of tobacco use. Health Canada has identified the availability of a variety of desirable flavors, despite the current restrictions, as one of the factors that have contributed to the rapid rise in youth vaping”.
In order to combat teen vaping, Health Canada is proposing to limit the flavour options for vape products sold in Canada to just tobacco and mint/menthol. This flavor ban is set to go into effect early next year.
Additionally, Health Canada will be imposing a limit on the amount of nicotine that can be present in vape products to just 20 mg/mL.
Manufacturers of vape products will be required to adhere to this nicotine limit by July 8, and retailers will be prohibited from selling products that exceed this limit after July 23.
The Tobacco and vaping products act lists the following aims:
- To protect the young from inducements to use vaping products
- To protect the health of young persons and non-users from dependence on nicotine
- Protect young people from access to vaping products
- To prevent the public from being ‘misled’ as to the health hazards of using vaping products
- Enhancing the public awareness of vape-related hazards.
The Amendment makes plenty of claims. We will address some of these claims and highlight some (among many) potential areas where the policy is flawed.
“Addressing the Rise in Youth Vaping”
While it can be argued that restricting any product will result in fewer people legally purchasing it, the Amendment fails to address several key concerns.
A better question to ask would be, ‘what is the alternative?’
It is a habit that has existed for centuries and is accountable for 48,000 deaths in Canada each year. The name of this habit?
Studies from across the border in the USA have shown that by restricting flavorings and limiting vaping, the government can expect to see a rise in teen smoking. “The lesser of two evils”? Absolutely not.
Instead of looking at youth vaping, a better metric would be to ask how many have stopped smoking.
A summary taken from a 2015 Tobacco alcohol and drugs survey shows that the number of smokers between the ages of 15 and 19 was 10%.
The Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey for 2019 shows that the prevalence of smoking was 5%. The same respective reports both mention vaping. 2015 saw vaping used by 26% of the above age ranges. 2019 reports this number as 36%.
Digging into the further details reveals an even clearer picture. And one that doesn’t agree with the current proposals when detailing vaping as ‘harmful’… Especially as the Amendment states:-
“Health Canada notes that no vaping products have been approved as smoking cessation aids.”
When looking at vapers who were former smokers, the 2015 report details 230,000 vape users as ‘former smokers’. Compare this figure to 2019, and the report states 365,000 vape users as ‘former smokers’. That would appear to indicate that more people than ever have turned away from smoking in favor of vaping.
An increase in vaping? Yes, of course. But that’s not a bad thing, as other Western Health Authorities are keen to point out.
Considering that a US-led study has demonstrated that high school vapers who vaped would have been likely to smoke in its absence, the Amendment may very well reduce vaping while pushing a generation back to more harmful conventional cigarettes.
Also, consider that the Canadian government has made significant errors in its accounting of the facts and figures in the past. An amendment was made to a British medical journal article after incorrectly identifying an increase in smoking and vaping, which led to a wave of anti-vaping propaganda.
“Most E-Cigarette Products Contain and Emit Numerous Potentially Toxic Substances”
This simply isn’t true. At least, not with normal use.
E-cigarette liquid contains three compounds…
A glycerin solution, nicotine, and flavoring.
Nothing is burned or combusted. Past studies have been conducted in a manner that doesn’t represent how electronic cigarettes are actually used in the real world.
In 2015 a study was conducted where an electronic cigarette was repeatedly dry burned to produce the desired result. Ask any vaper if they are happy to puff away on a dry electronic cigarette?
The above study was the antithesis of science. Producing an experiment to give a preordained result. An equivalence would be saying that water was harmful to humans after making someone drink 5 gallons in a 5 minute period.
“Unflavoured Vaping Products Are Not Popular; Over 99% Of Vaping Products Sold in Canada Are Flavoured.”
Again, this is logic that is tailored to suit a pre-decided outcome. Could it possibly be the fact that vaping is seen as a better alternative to smoking instead of the flavor?
The above excerpt makes little sense. To state that 99% of vapes sold are flavored, therefore it must be the flavoring that is ‘the demon’, shows ignorance.
It’s like stating that hops make beer taste nice. Therefore hops are responsible for the majority of drunk driving accidents.
Perhaps the saddest thing about the proposed Amendment is that it does mention the benefits of vaping. It makes several statements that we do agree with. Canada’s Tobacco Strategy (CTS) is quoted in the Amendment as saying: –
“For persons who smoke, the best thing they can do to improve their health is quit smoking.”
It then goes on to say: –
“Giving adults who smoke access to less harmful options than cigarettes will help reduce their health risks and possibly save lives.”
If the above is the case and quoted in the Amendment, it makes little sense to try and implement a policy that will lead people away from a less harmful alternative?
The push by legislators to restrict vaping, when it represents an alternative means to prevent thousands from smoking, is far from admirable and has little to do with ‘public health’. The restriction of vaping may very well push people back towards the proven harms of smoking. It could also encourage underground sales of products that lack the required quality control placed on legally available products, leading to further harm.